Jewish World Review April 12, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

What to cook or not to cook | There is nothing I enjoy and dread more than taking a meal to someone. I enjoy the cooking. I dread the planning.

My mom, by comparison, enjoys the entire event. She can get a phone call about a death in a family, someone's triple bypass or an ingrown toenail, and within three hours be zooming to a neighboring subdivision with a brisket, roast, pasta salad, potato salad and a deep dish cobbler, all jockeying for survival in the back seat of the car. She also has been known to take a three-pound can of coffee and large package of toilet tissue.

"Don't smirk," she says, pouring her sixteenth cup of black coffee, an ingredient which I suspect is key to her speed, "large families have practical needs at times like these." Mom is from the WWII generation that knows how to move. I am from the generation that knows how to obsess.

You can't just dash about throwing together a meal. You must first play Twenty Questions with yourself: Do they like vegetables? Don't they like vegetables? Do they eat meat? Don't they eat meat? Do any of their vehicles wear Jenny Craig or Sarah Ferguson bumper stickers?

The last time I volunteered to take a meal to a family, I'd just secured my name to a date on the calendar when someone mentioned that the woman of the house is a fabulous gourmet cook. Great. I knew right then that something frozen in a box with microwave directions on the side was out of the question.

I considered a jazzy little chicken pocket recipe, but then I had to consider who the recipient knows that might also be in the chicken pocket recipe network. Would they have had chicken pockets eight nights in a row, be waiting as I arrived, peering from behind a curtain, whispering a prayer, "Let her bring anything -- goose gizzards, ox tail, donut holes -- but please, no more chicken pockets."

As you can see, these are not simple decisions, which is why I spent two hours flipping through cookbooks. I announce that I have made my decision.

"Broccoli cheddar quiche," my husband says.

"How did you know?"

"It's what you always take."

It's the only thing I make that approaches stunning and I've never had a complaint. There was something close to a complaint when we were first married and a friend who had been finding himself in Europe stopped for a visit. He pulled up to the table and said, "They don't make quiche deep dish in France. They make it much thinner." I explained that the utility pole out front was not the Eiffel Tower and that this was not Paris, so start shoveling.

Real men may not eat quiche, but let me tell you, it takes real guts to make quiche. You have to have nerve to dump two cups of heavy whipping cream into a mixer bowl in these nutrition-conscious times and not flinch.

You have to be so careful about food these days. The menu passed mustard. There was no meat; I wouldn't offend them. No nuts; I wouldn't kill them. No caffeine; I wouldn't buzz them. Fat? Oh well, three out of four isn't bad.

I load the quiche, salad, rolls and lemon poppy seed pound cake into the back seat and take off. I make the drop and say you can just put the dishes in this box and leave it on your porch tomorrow. The girls can pick them up on their way home from school.

My gourmet friend looked around and said, "Is this all?" She was counting dishes to return and meant are these all the dishes, but it came out funny and she blushed. The blush didn't last long. It changed to a look of bewilderment when I said, "I knew I should have brought coffee and toilet paper."

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

03/31/02: Mom and Dad Break Curfew
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03/15/02: Birth of a Pothole
03/08/02: When Enron Momma gets mad
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02/22/02: Wrestling with prejudice
02/15/02: Say What?
02/08/02: Kitchen intelligence
02/01/02: Age-old words
01/25/02: Abortion: Switching Sides
01/18/02: Kids, take note
01/11/02: The heart-stopper e-mail
01/04/02: The slightly sunny side of 2001
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11/27/01: Glasses bring age into focus
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07/20/01: Bride showered with sage advice
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07/06/01: Pale at the Thought of Bronze
06/29/01: A Dog's Best Friend
06/22/01: Rethinking fatherhood
06/14/01 Don't forget to lock the door
06/07/01 How grandma punishes her kids
06/01/01 Hearing voices
05/25/01 Cyborgs for Better or Worse
05/18/01 The death of Common Sense

© 2001, Lori Borgman